New CSeries jets order offers comfort to Bombardier's Belfast workers

Wings for the CSeries are made at Bombardier's Belfast operation
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A EUROPEAN aviation customer has signed a letter of intent to buy as many as 61 of Bombardier's CSeries aircraft, the wings of which are made in Belfast.

The unnamed customer has placed a firm order for 31 planes, which at current list price will be worth 2.4 billion Canadian dollars (£1.4 billion).

And should options for the other 30 aircraft be exercised, it will double the order price to a sterling equivalent of nearly £3 billion.

If they do convert all 61 of latest deal into firm orders that will make it the 2nd biggest CSeries deal, behind Delta's 75 planes.

That deal, of course, has been catapulted into the global spotlight after the US commerce department slapped a 300 per cent tariff on sales of the Canadian group's CSeries aircraft, which effectively triples the price of each plane sold in America, rendering Bombardier uncompetitive.

With more than 1,000 people in Bombardier's Belfast plant directly employed manufacturing wings for CSeries planes, it has raised fears of massive job losses on Queen's Island.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has welcomed the letter of intent for up to 61 CSeries jets, adding: "The timing is significant and is a vote of confidence in the joint venture between Bombardier and Airbus. I hope this might be the first of many new orders for this ground-breaking aircraft.”

But it has emerged that Bombardier Inc will miss this year's delivery target for its flagship CSeries jets as the aerospace company grapples with engine delays.

In a statement in Montreal accompanying its third quarter results, the company confirmed that customers will receive only 20 to 22 of the new aircraft this year, down from an earlier plan for about 30.

The reduced delivery forecast extends a history of setbacks for a jet that was more than two years late and was $2 billion over budget when it entered commercial service last year.

Bombardier has invested more than $6 billion over the last decade to develop the 108- to 160-seater C Series plane, and shipping fewer than expected of the jets will eat into annual profits at the company.

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